Jaco Van Der Merwe
When the subject is all-electric cars, the biggest common denominator from every role player that has entertained us with his or her two cents worth has been the mindset change required by consumers.
The favourite one is filling a tank versus charging a battery. Currently we are driving cars to empty before filling the tank. In the all-electric era we’ll have to learn to instead top it up every night to keep the battery power up just in case we do need to use the entire range the next day.
We are also told that we need to start getting our minds around the idea that a decent charge – even one at the charging station with that meneer of a cable – could take more than 30 minutes compared to the five minutes it takes to fill up a fuel tank. So instead of waiting in the car or popping into the shop while we are refuelling, we need to plan to either do some work on the laptop or schedule a lunch across the road while the car is charging or in line for the next available charging station. Also, we will need to plan an open road trip around the car’s range.
If you can get away with one charge on your way to Durban, you’ll have to make sure the charge can be done in conjunction with a lazy breakfast or lunch at the rest stop equipped with a charging station.
Another adjustment will be getting used to the idea of the car slowing down when you take your foot off the accelerator. Because electric cars use a regenerative system to store stopping power back into the system, your need to physically press the brake pedal is considerably less than in a traditional car and the necessity to replace brake pads will decrease dramatically.
In fact, Porsche claims the brakes on the new all-electric Taycan will last “20 to 30 years’’. But apart from charging, range and braking, what these clever people neglect to tell us is the significant mindset change drivers need to adopt when they press the accelerator. Especially when they get behind the wheel of the Jaguar I-Pace that we recently had as a house guest for a few days.
The I-Pace is the third all-electric car that made it to South Africa after the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3, although the first generation of the Leaf has been discontinued and there is no confirmation yet on when to expect the next version overseas. But where the Leaf and i3 are city-type cars with limited ranges, the I-Pace is a more spacious option with performance credentials and the best electric range on offer in South Africa today as its price would suggest.
Our test unit was the top-of-the-range EV400 AWD First Edition which weighs in at a very hefty R1 920 700. The first mindset change around the accelerator people will have to adopt is the fact that power is immediately available. Two electric motors featuring driveshafts passing through the motors for compactness are placed at each axle, producing exceptional combined performance of 294kW/696Nm and all-wheel-drive, all-surface traction.
Claimed to clock 4.8 seconds from 0 to 100km/h, the I-Pace’s swift acceleration is ready to take anyone’s breath away. And that leads me to the next mindset change: the fact that you hardly hear a sound from the powerplant until you are well on your way.
Where an internal combustion engine car at least gives you some clues to accelerating or travelling really fast by virtue of distinct engine or exhaust noises, you hardly have a grasp of how fast you are actually travelling other than what the speedometer tells you. And believe me, we are talking about reaching lock-up speeds without actually realising it when you were merely going on your merry way in the fast lane of the N1.
That is partly made possible by the I-Pace’s excellent handling which is aided by its all-wheel drive system, which really makes driving this car all too easy. And apart from creating a very tempting urge to break the law, the I-Pace’s range is actually one of its biggest selling points.
Jaguar claims that its 470km, but that will obviously only be achievable by not troubling the traffic cops. But still, that could arguably take you to Cape Town with only two charge stops en route. The flipside of the size of the 90kWh lithium-ion battery that allows for all this is the amount of space it takes up under the back end of the car, resulting in the spare wheel fitted in the boot leaving limited space.
The I-Pace’s sleek, coupe-like silhouette is said to be influenced by the Jaguar C-X75 supercar. Billed as a crossover SUV it’s rather futuristic. And the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which I-Pace introduces to Jaguar is also quite next level. Judging by the number of awards the I-Pace has already won, puristic petrolheads might not have to be scared about the future.
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